Lessons From An Empty Nest

Posted Apr 4 2018, 7:00 am

I saw, or actually heard, something in nature that imitates real life. Specifically, what my life will be in a couple of years. An empty nest. My family and I were on a boat in the most beautiful water I’ve ever seen on the most beautiful day imaginable. Wispy clouds skittered by. Salty air filled our nostrils. And, as we eased by a huge cliff, incessant squawking floated down from above.

One of our guides said to me, “The Ospreys are bickering again.” The Ospreys are not an elderly couple who live across the street. They are a pair of seahawks who reside above the Atlantic Ocean in Providenciales. Our guide went on to say, “They’ve been doing this ever since their babies left.”

Hmmm. Sound familiar?

Unlike our babies, their babies get one chance to fly away. One. And if they don’t succeed, they fall into the ocean and die. In comparison, this makes launching my oldest off to college in the Fall seem quite easy and harmless. 

But like so many couples, the Ospreys find themselves with (literally) a huge empty nest and only each other to pass the time. And from the sounds coming from the top of that cliff, they weren’t taking it well.

Got me thinking. How’s this going to play out when my babies fly away. Will my husband and I peck at each other from morning to night? Will people stop and point and ask what all the clatter is about and others will answer, “That’s just the Moorhead’s bickering again.” I may, unfortunately, have a head start on this scenario (and our nest isn’t empty yet!) I’m on my way to becoming fluent. No Rosetta Stone tapes needed. Just the absence of children. Bickering happens to the best of us. Especially those of us who’ve been in marriages decades, not years. One day we wake up, look around, realize we have no children to distract us, and off we go.

“Are you really going to leave your shoes on top of the breakfast counter?” 

“Are you really going to leave food in sink instead of putting it down the disposal?” 

“You know you can’t feed the dog steak, it gives him gas.”

“You know you can turn off lights before you get in bed.” 

“Here, let me do that.” 

“Stop it, I got it.”

And on and on and on. 

An empty nest can morph into a marriage danger zone sprinkled with hidden mines like who’s in charge of the remote and driving ability and my personal favorite, temperature control.

I’m convinced the Cold War had nothing at all to do with geopolitical tensions and communism but the temperature at which a bedroom was kept. When my in-laws come to visit, no matter what time of year it is, they pack sweaters and down jackets. They know they’re going into the lair of the cold miser. During the day, you’ll be comfortable in my home. But come sundown, you’d better grab your wool blankie and bundle up. Winter is coming.

My husband, bless his heart, has succumbed to this necessity in my world. We bickered about it. He tried to sneak to the control panel and tap the air temp up in the middle of the night but my supersonic bat hearing busted him. He tried to rationalize with me. Nothing worked. Finally, he threw up his hands, donned his flannels, and avoided that mine field all together. But that doesn’t mean others aren’t waiting.

Avoiding bickering completely may be a bit overly ambitious but I can acknowledge its presence, take a lesson from those Ospreys. Realize I don’t want to ruin a beautiful view with loud bickering. 

What are you bickering about?




2 responses to “Lessons From An Empty Nest”

  1. Kent Chard says:

    What an insightful article! The majority of couples would benefit from reading this. I begin my day today by appreciating Mr. and Mrs Osprey but working at not becoming “The Ospreys.”

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